Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

Possibly the best hotel commercial ever made, Shangri-La's message was: There's no greater act of hospitality than to embrace a stranger as one's own. It's in our nature

Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

There are few luxury international hotels in the downtown core of North America's third-largest city, Toronto, and the Shangri-La is certainly among the finest of them. Bringing a taste of Chinese culture to a contemporary metropolitan setting, Shangri-La Toronto offers visitors a stay unique from all other lodgings in the city. In just one short year, the Shangri-La has become a hub for the movers and shakers of Toronto; whether visiting for high tea, or to have a cocktail, the lobby has become a second home to hotel guests and locals alike.

The Hotel:

If looking for lavish accommodations in Canada's largest city, look no further than Shangri-La. Whether traveling for business or leisure the hotel offers an array of rooms and suites that are sure to suit any traveler's needs. Opened last fall, just in time for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the hotel captivated guests as it hosted the Producers Ball.

Just under one year later the hotel has hosted numerous conferences, luncheons and last month welcomed His Excellency Sebastian Piñera, President of Chile, at a luncheon hosted in the Queens Park Ballroom by the Canadian Council for the Americas. Yesterday, the hotel lobby was transformed into a British tearoom for a Burberry fashion show and high tea; a platform to introduce their new tea menu.

Looking to escape the city, or just want to relax? Stop by the fourth floor and visit the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie of Paris. Open every day of the week at 9 a.m. the spa integrates Middle Eastern and French techniques to offer treatments that will leave skin feeling reborn.

Aside from the Shangri-La hotel in Vancouver, the company's only other property in North America, the Caudalie spa cannot be found anywhere else in Canada.

Start by treating yourself to a Hammam, Gommage & Rhassoul clay body masque ($170) or a hot stone massage ($185/210). Men: test out the men's Vinothérapie facial for only $150. Visiting with a partner? Try the couples Vinothérapie ritual: a barrel bath, Caudalie Grand Facial and 60 minute personalized massage; priced at $750. A popular treatment is the slimming body wrap that trims water weight and leaves skin supple and refreshed. At only $105, and taking only thirty minutes, there is no doubt why this is a popular choice.

The state-of-the-art health club at the Shangri-La keeps guests and residents in shape while the swimming lounge lures people in with its private cabanas and LCD televisions. The lounge was recently named one of the world's finest pools by Condé Nast. Plenty of natural light and crisp architecture provide an ambient setting for a nice swim.

For weddings and events the hotel has numerous banquet and conference style options, the Queens Park Ballroom being the most accommodating of them all. The event space walks out to a stunning terrace overlooking University Avenue. Aside from the banquet hall there is the stunning Museum Room — which is filled with natural light and sparkling crystal chandeliers — the Osgoode Room — ideal for board meetings — and a theatre for screenings and private showings.

The hotel has a glass-covered pond in the lobby next to the University entrance filled with coy fish and a birdcage that houses the hotel’s little songbird. Between the tea library and Fazioli piano — signed by Fazioli himself, and most recently by Joni Mitchell — the lobby is the place to start your day, or night, while staying at the hotel.

The Room:

A variety of rooms and suites are available for guests who wish to stay at the Shangri-La, the most stunning of all being the luxe Shangri-La suite. Fit for a president, the Shangri-La suite encompasses all that is modern luxury in a metropolitan city like Toronto. With dark wood finishes and a closet that would make Carrie Bradshaw weak in the knees, this seventeenth-floor suite should be featured in Architectural Digest.

The dining room has a beautiful view up University Avenue to Queens Park and the master bathroom walks out to a private terrace; the only one in the hotel. Double sinks, enough marble to strike a monument and the most alluring egg tub will have guests spending most of their time in the bathroom. The master bedroom's moongate arch is truly remarkable and a beautiful aesthetic feature to compliment the design of the suite. Don't want to miss the news while shaving or putting on makeup in the morning? Flick on the television screen built into the mirrors.

The One-Bedroom Deluxe Suite is ideal for travelling executives who are looking for either short or extended stays. With enough square footage to swallow most one-bedroom condos in Toronto, the suite has two bathrooms, a walk-in closet and a bright bathroom with a marble tub. All shades and curtains in the hotel are controlled from switches throughout the units.

Each suite or room at the hotel has stunning architecture, limited edition lithograph prints and iPads for guests to use throughout their stay.

The Eats:

A meal at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Bosk, is nothing short of perfect. The restaurant’s interior is beautifully designed and the patio is perfect for drinks with friends; a restaurant that attracts residents, hotel guests and Torontonians.

Breakfast at Bosk is a great introduction to the restaurant’s culinary mastery. The menu is simple, listing only: Continental, Oriental, Wellness, European and Deluxe. It might sound easy, but each dish is equally as delicious as the next. If looking for a hearty, satisfying, breakfast try Deluxe: two egg any style with breakfast potatoes, choice of bacon, pork sausage or chicken sausage and a marinated fruit salad.

For lunch, have Ontario’s Gathered Leaves (shaved summer vegetables, delight of dali cheese with a citrus honey vinaigrette) to start then taste the Brome Lake Duck Leg Confit, made with yellow peach, vanilla glaze parsnip, sweet onion and roasted duck jus.

At dinner, start with Nova Scotia Scallops (avocado, hon-shimiji mushrooms, crunchy rice, toasted sesame, ginger dressing) then have the Haida Gwaii Halibut, which is made with dungeness crab dumplings and sweet corn herbaceous shellfish juice. Ask the sommelier for the perfect wine to pair with dinner; the in-house wine guru has an extensive knowledge of every wine in their expansive cellar.

There is an entire strip of restaurants just around the corner on King Street West. If venturing that way be sure to visit Hey Lucy, Brassaii, Bier Markt or Gusto 101. Room service at the Shangri-La is also exquisite, so guests don’t have to leave their room.

The Service:

The service at Shangri-La Toronto is impeccable, its staff extremely polite and welcoming. Valet parking can be found at the Simcoe Street motor lobby. Shangri-La strives to offer guests a complete experience when visiting the hotel. From getting to know your name, to offering an oriental hand fan when flushed in the lobby, the Shangri-La team doesn’t miss a beat.

Veredict:

With a property that will linger in the minds of visitors forever, Shangri-La deserves recognition as one of Toronto's finest hotels. Not many hotels ever manage to create such a convivial atmosphere in the lobby, but there is no doubt that Shangri-La has one of the best hotel lobbies in North America. To not stay at the Shangri-La at least once is to not truly experience luxury in Toronto.

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